QUESTION: Luke 24:18 mentions the name Cleopas and John 19:25 mentions Mary the wife of Clopas. Could Cleopas and Clopas be the same person? Even if they aren’t, wouldn’t it be more likely that a man and his wife walked home together and ate supper together at their home (with Jesus this time) than that two men lived together, as is always pictured?
Then the one whose name was Cleopas answered and said to Him, “Are You the only stranger in Jerusalem, and have You not known the things which happened there in these days?” (Luke 24:18).
Now there stood by the cross of Jesus His mother, and His mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene (John 19:25).
ANSWER: Jesus appeared to His followers at least five times according to the Gospel accounts. Sometime in the middle of the day, He appeared to those we call the Emmaus disciples. The incident is recorded in St. Luke 24:13-35. St. Luke identifies one of those disciples by name, Cleopas. The other disciple is not identified.
The two were traveling to their home in Emmaus. When Jesus joined them, they had been discussing all that had taken place that weekend. They were troubled and disappointed. They told Jesus, whom they did not recognize, that they had hoped Jesus was the Jewish Messiah. However, they did not understand the mission God had given to the Messiah. Like so many other Israelites, they had hoped that the Messiah would liberate them from the political tyranny of Rome.
As they walked, Jesus taught them the real mission of the Messiah. God sent His Son into this world to live, suffer, and die in order to rescue sinners from the tyranny of Satan and the death and hell they deserve. On Good Friday, Jesus paid our debt by His death. Early on Easter morning, Jesus rose from death for our justification (Romans 4:25), that is, God declared the world righteous. His resurrection proved that Jesus was much more than merely a liberator from Roman persecution. It proved He is the very Son of God. By faith in Him, we enjoy God’s grace, love, and forgiveness. In the risen Christ, we have the sure and certain promise of life after death. By faith, we are God’s children, which means that we shall live forever with our living Lord Jesus.
After some research, this writer has learned the following:
- Cleopas may or may not be the same fellow St. John called Clopas, the husband of Mary. Eusebius, in the fourth century A.D., identified Clopas as the brother of St. Joseph, the stepfather of Jesus. Other traditions identify him as the man who married the widowed Mary. We cannot prove either one from the Scripture. We cannot prove one way or another from the Bible that Cleopas is Clopas. It is possible.
- Some scholars have identified the other disciple as being Cleopas’ wife. Lutheran commentaries that this writer trusts do not consider this to be possible.
- In addition, the two from Emmaus tell Jesus, “Yes, and certain women of our company, who arrived at the tomb early, astonished us” (Luke 24:22). This seems to indicate that neither one of the Emmaus disciples is a female.
- It is safest to say that there is no Biblical evidence to identify or not to identify Cleopas with Clopas, or to determine whether or not the other disciple was Cleopas’ wife.
The account of the road to Emmaus is dear to this writer. He attended Sunday School and worship in Emmaus Lutheran in North Minneapolis, Minnesota. He was also confirmed there. Gustave Doré’s painting, “Jesus and the Disciples Going to Emmaus,” brings great comfort to his heart.
Abide with Me! Fast falls the Eventide;
The darkness deepness; Lord, with me abide.
When other helpers fail and comforts flee,
Help of the helpless, Oh, abide with me!
NOTE from the editor: The Holy Spirit inspired the holy writers to set down the important facts of any incident, but not all of them. We should not be surprised that two men left Jerusalem for Emmaus as they discussed the events of the most important weekend in history. We are not told whether the men had wives or if one of the wives fixed the meal that Jesus was invited to eat with them. These disciples of Jesus demonstrated the virtue of Christian hospitality that God had commanded the Israelites to show. Neither should we conclude that the “two men lived together, as is always pictured,” since Israelite houses would have rooms for a guest to sleep in.
Rev. Charles Keeler
Resurrection Lutheran Church
Winter Haven, FL